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Christian Science teacher banned after lesbian marriage

Refused to 'repent' for her actions

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- A woman who married her lesbian partner in Massachusetts was banned from teaching in the Church of Christ, Scientist, after she refused to "repent" for her actions.

A church letter sent to Kathleen Clementson said she had abused her role as a teacher and could teach spiritual healing again only if she repented and served a three-year probation.

Clementson, 62, instead returned her teaching credentials and left the church.

"I don't feel I have anything to repent for more than anyone else," she told The News-Press of Fort Myers.

The Boston-based church declined to comment on the situation yesterday after initially saying it was planning to issue a statement. A local governing board member said the Christian Science Church of Cape Coral will abide by the Mother Church's decision.

Clementson and Suzanne Nightingale, 49, were married May 20 on a Massachusetts beach. Photos taken by the Associated Press were sent to news outlets around the world.

Clementson said many people who saw the photos recognized her name in connection with the church.

Christian Scientists consider prayer as the primary source of mental and physical healing, and Clementson was a well-known church practitioner and lecturer.

For 10 years, she taught a two-week class on spiritual healing that is a first step toward being a church practitioner.

The church's letter to Clementson also said that her former students are now considered to have had no primary instruction, and they can no longer advertise their practitioner services in the Christian Science Journal, or take annual refresher courses.

Few people will be seriously affected by the board's decision, Clementson said.

In New York yesterday, a conservative legal group filed a lawsuit to invalidate about 180 same-sex marriages performed in New Paltz, and to stop village officials from conducting same-sex weddings.

Judge Michael Kavanagh signed a temporary order blocking more weddings and set a July 19 court date.

The Liberty Counsel's lawsuit is the broadest legal challenge yet to same-sex weddings performed in the liberal upstate village since Mayor Jason West officiated at the first marriages Feb. 27.

Liberty Counsel argued for an injunction keeping West from performing weddings, but other village officials and ministers have since taken over the function.

Last weekend, village board member Julia Walsh joined ministers in marrying 19 same-sex couples. Board member Rebecca Rotzler married gay couples a week ago.

The Liberty Council's lawsuit seeks to bar those board members and another from performing gay weddings, and asks Kavanagh to invalidate Rotzler and Walsh as marriage officers.

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